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Dean J
Updated: 24 min 1 sec ago

A Class of 2019 Update

May 26, 2015
A young man in the morning information session was one of the students I got to call about a waiting list offer. He just wanted to say hello before going out on the tour, but it was a good reminder this process still isn't over.

At this point, we have worked through most segments of the class (remember there are ten segments, VA and OOS for each school/program in which first years can enroll) and made some offers. A good portion of those students submit deposits. Some are still working with Student Financial Services to get their financial aid packages. Some have turned us down and we know they are off to wonderful schools in the fall.

It looks like we are pretty close to the usual timeline of having this work finished by early June. As always, once the class is final (meaning we are done making offers), I'll post about it here.

To those who have called, emailed, tweeted, and visited after getting offers, thank you! Seeing your enthusiasm and excitement inspires us as we do this work. We are so lucky to have you in the Class of 2019!

Social Norming, College Admission, and Stress

May 14, 2015
The concept of social norms was emerging when I started my career (I was in student affairs) and isn't really discussed in admission all that much. With a social norms approach, we talk about what is normal instead of what is happening with outliers when discussing behavior or outcomes. I use a social norms approach when talking to students about the college application process and I've been thinking that students could benefit from more widespread use.

I spoke on a panel at a Fairfax County summit on teen stress last weekend and it is so clear to me that many people draw conclusions about the college admission process based on stories they've heard about outliers. Outliers are probably interesting because their stories amaze and excite us. The outliers get so much air time that even the most calm, rational people lose sight of what is normal. If we focused more on norms, maybe there wouldn't be as much pressure to do what the outliers are doing.

Let's look at something as simple as the number of college applications high school students are submitting. This New York Times article says:

...In 1990, just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more colleges. By 2011...that group had risen to 29 percent.
In the class of 2014, according to Naviance, 16.5 percent of seniors using the system said they intended to apply to 11 to 20 colleges.
Flip that around so that the normal behavior is highlighted:

In 2011, 71% of students submitted six or less college applications. In the Class of 2014, 83.5% of students who use Naviance intended on applying to 10 or less colleges 

The data that the Common App puts out about the number of applications the average user submits might help back up the norms approach. They've been putting these charts out for years and the numbers haven't changed all that much. In fact, in our mid-Atlantic region, the average number of applications submitted was lower in 2014 than in 2012 at every kind of high school except the ones with religion affiliations. The number for those schools stayed the same.

It's still interesting to marvel at outliers (that NY Times article cites someone who applied to 56 schools!), but maybe we can take things down a notch by talking more about what is normal.

Happy Signing Day!

May 1, 2015
Have you noticed people announcing their college decisions on social media lately? We have an we've loved seeing the tweets and Instagram pictures that people have tagged with #UVA19 this year. It's as if we can see the Class of 2019 taking shape in front of our eyes!

If you are an admitted student and you still haven't accepted or declined your offer of admission, you have until midnight tonight to hit the right button (under your letter). When you go to pay your deposit, a screen will pop up (turn off your pop up blocker for this part) allowing you to type in the routing and account number on a check to pay your deposit. The system also takes a few types of credit cards, but it's primarily used for checks.

Next Steps for Admitted StudentsAbout 72 hours after you deposit, you'll be able to register for orientation and start working down the list of things the Student Affairs folks want you to do. There's information about setting up your UVa email account, your UVa ID card, housing, dining, placement exams, and more on the Summer Orientation website.

Next Steps for Waiting List StudentsRemember that you are not on the waiting list until you opt into it. To be considered for a spot, you need to hit the "accept" button under your admission letter in SIS. The accept/decline buttons remain visible so you have the option of removing yourself from the waiting list at any point. If you have anything to add to your file, send it to right away.

I don't know how much space there is in the class at this point. Remember, the admitted students have until midnight to deposit and then their payments have to be processed. 

When we make an offer to someone on the waiting list, they get a new decision letter in SIS. We always call students to give them a heads up that their status is going to change and explain what to do next. You'll have a few days to think things over and submit a deposit if you get an offer.

We try to call the number on the application between the end of the school day and 5 PM, when our office closes. It could take several weeks for this to play out. We'll make a few offers, give those students a couple days to deposit, make a few more offers, give those students a few days, etc.

Obviously, some will turn us down on the spot and that's totally fine. We realize that students on the waiting list may have deposited elsewhere and gotten excited about another school in the last few weeks.  I hope those students have already removed themselves from the waiting list via SIS, but that's not always the case.

May 1st is Friday!

April 27, 2015
In the days of paper applications, admission deans stalked the mail delivery in April the same way that applicants did in March. Did any deposits arrive? How close are we to having the class completed? These days, deposits are paid online at most schools, so there probably aren't as many deans pacing and peeking at the mail bins.

One of the most delightful developments I've noticed this year is that more students are announcing their college decisions on social media.

After contemplating about all of these college choices, I'm happy to announce that I will be attending University of Virginia #UVA19A photo posted by Stephen The Singer (@steve_ross1) on Apr 18, 2015 at 5:29pm PDT

Man oh man I'm just as excited now as I was then to ~officially~ be a wahoo #UVA19A photo posted by Mary Peyton Baskin (@mpbaskin) on Apr 22, 2015 at 2:35pm PDT

Instead of stalking the mail delivery, I find myself looking at the #UVA19 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram a lot and smiling.

While I still think that seeing you all get your decisions is one of my favorite things, seeing your happy faces when you've made your college decision is wonderful, too. I look at the pictures and tweets and think about all the amazing things you will do here. I am excited to see you propel this university forward and enrich this amazing community with your talents.

It's official. Commited to my boy TJ #uva19 A photo posted by Kathy Nguyen (@thatonenguyen) on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:49pm PDT

If you are still trying to make your decision and have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or contact me on twitter (@UVaDeanJ).

And if decide to announce your decision to join UVa's Class of 2019 on Twitter or Instagram, use the hashtags #UVA19 and #ReachHigher. You might just get retweeted or regrammed by the main UVa account!

How Much Time is Spent Reading Each Application?

April 24, 2015
While I will always enjoy talking about UVa and the amazing things our students do here, I really have fun talking about the mechanics of the application review. I love explaining how things work behind-the-scenes because I know the information helps students and parents feel like applications are cared for and reviewed in a thorough and thoughtful way. Sometimes there's a moment when they realize they can ask about some little detail that they didn't feel comfortable asking before. One of the most common questions is about how long it takes to read a file.

The system in which we read files doesn't have a timer that can measure the number of minutes a file has been open over the course of the entire season (that I know of), but there are "quick" reads and there are "long" reads. If you look at the entire application pool as a line, the quick reads would be at the extreme ends - the clear offers and the clear denies. The files that aren't at the extremes are where we spend the bulk of our time.

Here is a super complex graphic to explain.

The other factor that people don't seem to know is that we read in teams. Everyone is so used to hearing about "regional reps" in admission offices. We do specialize in certain regions (I cover much of northern Virginia and northern New Jersey), but multiple admission officers read and weigh in on an applicant's file (which is why we're always telling you to email updates to and not to individual admission officers). Each application is read by at least two different officers, but can be read by as many as...well, the entire staff. How many times a file is read and how many different people read it depends on the case.

I rarely remember the files on the extremes, so sometimes a counselor will excitedly mention their star student who was admitted and I'll smile, but have no recollection of the name. I'm more likely to remember the files I read over and over again during the season as I journeyed towards a decision for them. We all write notes in the file every time we read it, but I also jot down a couple details about files I want to revisit in a notebook each year. I check up on the files a lot during the course of the review and then shred the pages when the class is full.

I'm always happy to answer questions about logistics. Feel free to post them in the comments.


April 16, 2015
Today is the eighth anniversary of tragic events at Virginia Tech. I imagine there aren't many in the Commonwealth who don't remember where they were on the morning of April 16, 2007 and how worried they were for everyone in Blacksburg.

Here at UVa, Days on the Lawn was just getting underway when the news broke. Jack Blackburn, our late dean, shared the news during the welcome session and offered our office's phones to those who needed to call a loved one in Blacksburg. What was going to be a fun, upbeat day on Grounds became very different as we worried about our Hokie friends. The entire UVa community came together to support Virginia Tech in a variety of ways.

Some people insist that UVa and Tech are enemies, but the fact is that we are more like siblings. Of course, a sibling rivalry is evident when we face each other in competition, but siblings support each other, too. Every UVa student who went to high school in the state probably has a former classmate at the other state universities. Faculty and administrators here often know their counterparts at the other schools. We look forward to seeing each other on panels or at conferences. There are many families who have "house divided" stickers and flags because one child goes to UVa and another goes to Tech.

We are Hoos, but we love our Hokie friends.
The longest lasting message ever painted on Beta Bridge, April 17-June 9, 2007

The day the Hokies painted Beta Bridge, June 9, 2007

Last year...

Friday Days on the Lawn is FULL! Space available Wednesday and Monday.

April 14, 2015
We have three more Days on the Lawn events to go! We can't wait to see those of you who have registered to visit on Wednesday, Friday, and next Monday.

The weather forecast seems to be pointing towards us needing to move the welcome sessions indoors for this week, but we'll make the call on each of those a little closer to the start time. As always, there will be signs and volunteers directing you to the proper location.

If you haven't registered yet, there are still spaces available this Wednesday and next Monday. The Friday DOTL is completely full and we can not handle ANY unannounced visitors. This is about fire codes, so we aren't just capping attendance on a whim. For everyone's safety, please pick a different day to visit if you don't have a reservation to attend the Friday DOTL.

By the way, CavDog isn't allowed inside the buildings where we hold our welcome session and panels when it rains. If you want to meet him, come back Peabody Hall after you attend class and he'll be more than happy to spend some time with you! If the weather is nice, you can come see CavDog contort and jump to catch his tennis ball on the lawn in front of Peabody in the afternoon.

Reflecting on the 2014-2015 Essays

April 7, 2015
People sometimes assume that once the incoming class is admitted, we get to relax a little bit and take some time off. In reality, we move into the transfer application review season, visit season (Days on the Lawn is only half of it...huge groups of sophomores and juniors are visiting), and preparing for next year's process.

I've been thinking a lot about our essays questions and how we may tweak them for next year. We usually have admission officers, deans from the different schools/programs, and current UVa students weigh in on the questions. After reading thousands of essays, most admission officers are pretty passionate about the questions that need to stay on the application and the ones that need to go or be edited.

I'm wondering what those of you who just went through this think about the options for question #2. If you need a reminder, here are the options that were on your application:

2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language (we’ll welcome you to Grounds, not campus) and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • While a student at U.Va., Fulbright Scholar Rowan Sprague conducted groundbreaking research aimed at protecting the complex structure of honeybee hives. We know that colonies include bees acting in a diverse range of roles, all equally important to the success of the hive. What role will you play in the U.Va. hive?
  • To tweet or not to tweet?      

I definitely have my favorites, but I'm wondering if you do as well. Would you remove one of these completely (I would)? Would you tweak one to work better?